Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Specifics of records prior to 1784

Michaela wrote a huge post about the structure of the parish records, but there are some specifics worth mentioning in case of records prior to year 1784. Why this year? Because it was the year when parish books happened to become part of the official state administration even they were still administered by the church. A decree by the Emperor Joseph II. stated new structure of the records in 1784 so after this year all the records should contain the same information. Well, should - it took several years before this was fully in place.

Anyway, what are the specifics of the parish records prior to 1784?

No maiden names
Really. Mother's maiden name is usually not written in the birth records. Women were considered not so important, so their surnames before marriage were not important. Just the first name is usually written. Which could be very challenging in case you have more families of the same surname and first name combination in the town. Such as three different Blažek families with Jan and Anna first name combination (true story).

No mother's name
Another part of "women are not so important" story. Marriage records usually contain just the name and surname of the father. Which could be again challenging in case you have more families of the same name-surname combinations.

No age in the marriage records
Not important. Not important at all. Age was just not the type of information our ancestors valued. Really. That's why there are so many mistakes in age in death records (and also marriage records after 1784).

No house numbers prior to 1770
Yes, that's it. The house numbers are in place since 1770/1771 when Marie Terezie decided to issue a decree about house numbering. More about house numbers in a blog post from November 2014.

No cause of death
Another "not important" type of information. It appeared after 1784, it was shown in some special cases before 1784 - mostly if the cause of death was interesting. Yes, gossip was the fuel of the everyday life even in the past. ;)

It would be a shame not writing down such an interesting cause of death. This is one of my own ancestors, Kašpar Netolička, who was shot during a wedding, lived through three days and then died. Well, even such things happened. ;)

Birth or baptism date? Death or burial date?
This is tricky one. There is often just one date in the parish book before 1784 in case of birth/baptism or death/burial. But - is it the birth date or baptism date, death date or burial date? It's often the second option as the books were official books of the church which meant there was the church agenda recorded. And the important part was the baptism and the burial, not the birth or the death. But it's usually almost impossible to tell those dates apart...

Dates in church format
I still have to write a blog post about this. Church dates were used in old parish books - and I mean those dates such are "21st Sunday after Pentecost" or "2nd Sunday after Epiphany" or "in the feast of St. Wenceslaus" and so on. I promise I'll write a blog post about this. Soon. Well. Sooner or later.


  1. So in you opinion can these obstacles be overcome to continue to trace to years prior to 1770? I know that I have some names that go back to the 1600s. But is it even possible to go back further?

  2. I have gotten back to about 1630 in some places....but you need to have extant records. Not all parish records go back that far. Biggest hurdle when you get back that far is the writing...

  3. What does "dc", "vd" and "mzl" mean in a index of deaths from the late 1700's?